Hint: It’s all about the property manager.
Mike Andes hosts a popular YouTube channel for landscapers with over 40K subscribers. Owner of Augusta Lawn Care, the fastest growing lawn care franchise with nearly 100 locations, Andes offers business advice in a variety of social media formats. Click here to listen to a 7 minute podcast version of this story. To subscribe to the Turf Magazine Podcast for this and future episodes, download the Podbean app and search for the Turf Magazine Podcast.
Here are his tips for Turf readers on nabbing commercial contracts.
How do you finally get those lucrative commercial jobs? To start, the office where I am currently writing this article is part of a strip mall with 40 different tenants, and I have never met the property owners. I only know the property manager. With most commercial real estate—whether it be apartment buildings, malls, or condo associations—you will typically be dealing with the property manager, not the owner. If you want to get your foot in the door with commercial work, the property manager or management company will be the one that initiates service. The owner of a 200-unit apartment complex is typically not going to be calling you up asking for an estimate or sending you a RFP.
Who Should You Talk To?
Property managers not only take care of job bids, they also handle maintenance requests, vendor estimates, unit leasing, evictions, rent collection, and money distributions. They ensure the whole property is maintained: the landscaping; the snow plowing; the HVAC systems… they are responsible for any and all elements related to a property, and it’s a time-consuming job.
Traditionally, property managers’ pay is not dictated by the amount of work they do on-site or an hourly wage. Instead, they usually receive a percentage of gross rents and thereby are inclined to be actively trouble-shooting on properties as little as possible. As a result, it’s imperative to create trusting relationships so they know you’re doing everything possible to reduce their workload, instead of adding to it with unnecessary requests and mistakes.
Get Your Foot In The Door
The First Way: In-Person. You need to go shake hands and actually meet people—every single property management company in your local market. Do a Google search, “property management,” with your city and you’ll receive a ton of area management companies. At my lawn care business, we purchased cookies and marketing material, then went to every single property management company in the area to introduce ourselves and drop off the gifts. People buy from others they know, like, and trust. Having an in-per-son handshake and offering cookies can go a long way to getting your foot in the door.
The goal is to create relationships where property managers don’t even look for other bids. They just know you’ll do a good job at a fair price. They might say, “Look, we know you’re going to take care of it. Can you just get me a bid and get this taken care of?”
Property managers are not going to make more money by going out, getting 20 bids, and trying to save a few dollars. Again, their personal salary is not necessarily dictated by the net profit of their properties, but is rather usually based on gross rents. They want companies that are going to provide estimates quickly and get work done quickly. They want companies they don’t have to micromanage.
If you visit property management companies in-person, you may even find a few managers who say, “Oh yeah, we actually have a new property going up for bidding next week. You’re welcome to come and bid.” This might happen for one out of every 10 of these companies.
Bring your A-game. Be in professional clothes. Have a company brand and marketing materials. Ensure when they think about landscaping, they think about you and their positive experience when you visited.
The Second Way: The Blind Estimate. The other way to get-in with these folks is an approach I call “blind estimating.” What that means is: they haven’t asked for estimates, jobs, or work, but yet, you give them estimates. Now, how do you do that?
- You literally go and drive through all the commercial properties you want to service and look for different areas of improvement.
- Look for signs that say, “Call this number if you want to lease or rent here.” It’s going to list the contact information.
- Contact the decision maker. Call the property management company and ask “Who is responsible for XYZ property?” Get to know that person. Learn his/her name. You can look him/her up on LinkedIn since many property managers use it to network.
- Look for areas of neglect or areas that need improvement. Moss growing on the sidewalks? Gutters full of debris? Broken downspouts? If you can be a property manager’s eyes and ears, you are going to elevate the level of value you provide.
- Finally, create an estimate and send it to the property manager. You can say, “Hey, we noticed this property has a bunch of sidewalk moss. We can do pressure washing.” Then pro-vide the price. It’s a massive win. The property manager didn’t have to be on the property to note the issue. S/he did not have to call a bunch of services to get estimates. It was liter-ally just all directly handed over!
You are the one saying, “Here’s the need. I have the solution. Here’s the price. Let’s go!” And s/he will think, “Wow, someone took the time to do my job for me. Here is someone being proactive and giving me this estimate.”
Be sure to carefully craft the estimate email. For example, if you saw a tree touching the building you could say, “Look, we don’t want rodents and insects having access to the building. We can take care of that for you. We can trim, do tree chipping to reduce waste and get that tree off the side of the building.”
After You Get Through The Door
Try to focus on the one-time sale. Don’t go for the massive contract from the get-go. Pursue one-time jobs and then “wow” them with the fact that you had eyes on the property, and were proactive, fast, and efficient. Send pictures of the job you did. They won’t have to go inspect your work because you sent the bill along with detailed photos. The property manager can now show the owner work was done to improve the value. This is all of massive worth to a property manager.
If they’re happy, the next time bids roll around, they’re going to make sure you’re on proposals. They may even pay a little bit extra, because they know you’re going to pro-actively look for areas of improvement. (You should do this for all your properties: maximize high-profit, add-on services.)
I went to one of our properties and the property manager said she hadn’t been on the property for six months. So we were the eyes and ears of that manager on the property. We were sending her pictures, letting her know about fallen trees, and so on. Eventually, when work is required, she won’t submit a bid proposal or ask other vendors for estimates because she would prefer to save herself time.
The bottom line is: if you want commercial work, get in with the property managers. You have to meet them and network or do blind estimates to save them time. When you create relationships and value, they are often willing to pay a bit more. They’re look-ing at you as a partner, rather than a service provider they have to babysit. You can even start to charge the same prices as residential work. You will not have to reduce your prices or match low-ballers. We have never lowered our hourly rates on commercial work. But in order to charge that premium price, you must offer a premium service.
Andes is the founder and CEO of Augusta Lawn Care, the fastest growing lawn care franchise in the world, with nearly 100 locations around North America. He teaches his business principles on YouTube and is the founder of the following tools built for lawn care business owners: P4Psoftware.com, LawnCareWebDesign.com, LawnCareMedia.com, and LandscapeBusinessCourse.com. For a full list of resources and training visit MikeAndes.com.